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JIM HIGHTOWERI Legal Bribery Like myopics who cant see the forest for the trees, the U.S. senators investigating the campaign corrup tion of the White House are so focused on a couple-of-hundred-thousand dollars supposedly funneled into last year’s presidential election by the Chinese that they are missing a huge forest of corruption looming right in front of them. 0 ur political and governmental systems are putrid not with Chinese contributions, but with corporate money, yet this pollution goes uninspected. That’s because these millions in corruption funds are technically “legal,” made so by the very lawmakers now professing such outrage over a pittance from the Chinese. It’s legal for oil, banking, chemical, media, and other conglomerates to put millions in the pockets of politicians and get special favors in return. But let’s just deal today with foreign money in the American system. The senators are obsessed with China’s rulers trying to buy influence, but they are a piker compared to the British. Just four British corporate powerhousesdrugmaker SmithKline, chemical giant Zeneca, oil producer BP, and tobacco heavy Brown & Williamsonput more than $8 million into U.S. elections and lobbying last year. A single Swiss drugmaker, Glaxo Wellcome, put up more than $7 million. And if you want a gross example of a foreign government buying favorable U.S. policies, look no further than Mexico. The ruling oligarchy there spent $30 million to get the NAFTA deal it wanted in 1993, hir ing forty-four Washington PR and lobbying firms, including purchasing the insider influence of thirty-three former U.S. officials. Indeed, foreign governments and corporations spend more than a billion dollars a year in campaign contributions and lobbying to get policies from Washington that favor them. Chasing a few Chinese dollars is ludicrous. Real reform requires stopping the legalized bribery. PENTAGON WHITEWASHERS An ad for a laundry service promised, “We do not tear your clothing with machinery. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER We do it carefully by hand.” Likewise, the Pentagon is ever so carefully shredding the truth when it comes to dealing with Gulf War Syndrome. This a a a a a a a a a THERE’S NOTHING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD BUT YELLOW STRIPES AND DEAD ARMADILLOS JIM’ HIGHTOWER 1 debilitating, deadly condition afflicts hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans, yet the brass that sent these men and women to war are now lying to them about the chemicals that engulfed them there, denying them medical service and insulting them by implying that their suffering is all in their heads. For five years, the Pentagon flat stonewalled these sick soldiers. Then, pressured by vets and a few investigative reporters, the Brass said in June 1996, “OK, we now concede that 400 U.S. troops might have been exposed.” A month later, they said, “OK, it’s 1,100.” Then, with public outrage growing, they raised their count to 5,000. Then to 10,000. Then to 20,000. Finally, a couple of months ago, the Pentagon issued a report saying, “Now we’ve got it, it’s about 100,000.” Now, however, a United Nations report documents a second exposure for U.S. troops that likely sent a poi sonous plume over thousands more of our soldiers. The U.S. authorities had been informed about this U.N. finding last winter. Butshhhhhhad kept it quiet. One CIA official said, “You don’t want to end up alarming people.” Not, apparently, informing them either. After all, it’s only a life or death matter to those exposed. Now comes word that the Pentagon has been covering up yet another study. This one found that the first and second Marine divisions also were ex posed to chemicals in another incident in that war. This is in a $2 million study commissioned byguess who?the Pentagon itself! But the Brass didn’t like the results, so they tried to bury the re port and badmouth its authors. Isn’t it time to take the investigation of Gulf War Syndrome out of the hands of the Pentagon Whitewashers? INSURANCE HOGS Hogs tend to be… well, hoggish. Even when a hog is already stuffed from being overfed, it still wants its trough to be filled up. Let’s check today’s Hog Report to get an example. These squealers are insurance companies that’ ve been getting fat at our expense. Years ago, auto thefts were on the rise all across America, and the auto insurers were demanding that state regulators raise the rates on your and my comprehensive auto policies to cover their losses. Insurance company lobbyists pointed out that 80 percent of the payouts made under such insurance were due to OCTOBER 10, 1997 a a a a a a a a a a a a a